HARRISONBURG — Barry Hart and Larry Hoover met in the late ‘70s when helping to create Gemeinschaft Home, a nonprofit organization serving the community through residential and non-residential programs.
The two helped get the organization off the ground and came together again in 1985 when Hoover used his law experience to help it become a nonprofit. The two remained friends ever since.
Hoover died on Friday after a battle with dementia. His obituary appeared in the Monday edition of the Daily News-Record.
Hart, a professor at Eastern Mennonite University, described Hoover as a friend to many and an advocate.
Hoover has had a lasting impact advocating and working tirelessly to create alternatives to the adversarial legal system. His efforts to refocus the legal profession on the client’s needs changed the nature of the legal system throughout Virginia. He has often been referred to as “the father of mediation in Virginia.” In Harrisonburg, Hoover was one of the founders of the Fairfield Center, the first community mediation center in Virginia, according to his obituary.
“It reflects a big heart,” Hart said. “He was a person who really cared for others and had such an openness to himself. It allowed others in and they felt safe to be around him.”
Hart said Hoover was also humorous, a great singer and a well-rounded conversationalist who was always good for a book recommendation.
Despite his battle with dementia, Hoover’s wife, Pam, told Hart that even at the end he was happy and content.
“I think that’s a reflection of what I just said, even in that state he was open and caring and happy,” Hart said.
Hoover was well known throughout the Commonwealth and credited as a pioneer in refocusing the legal profession to the client’s needs in a client-centered model that looks for win-win solutions rather than winner-loser, according to previous Daily News-Record reports.
“[It’s] shifting the focus of the lawyer as a gladiator to a lawyer as a problem solver,” said P. Marshall Yoder of Wharton Aldhizer & Weaver law firm and longtime colleague of Hoover, in a previous DN-R article. “We’re not saying court is bad, we need court … but before we get to that, we need to have a lot of dialogue with our clients and then talking to the other attorney and their client about what they really want and see if we can come up with solutions short of going to court.”
Hoover was part of the mediation movement that first came to Virginia in the early to mid-2000s. The collaborative law model requires both clients to sign an agreement authorizing the lawyers to help resolve the dispute rather than going straight to court.
“That was a fairly radical shift, but I think it has become more and more mainstream,” Yoder said previously.
Besides his work in remediation and conflict resolution, Hoover was well known in the community for serving on many boards, including the Community Foundation, the Center for Justice and Peace Building at Eastern Mennonite University, the Community Mediation Center as a founding member, the American Shakespeare Center, Church of the Brethren, Shenandoah Valley Public Television, Blue Ridge Community College Education Foundation, Farmers and Merchants Bank and others, according to his obituary.